Life Under The Sun
Welcome In The Name Of The Father, And The Son, And The Holy Spirit.
They say, Solomon wrote Song Of Songs in his youth, Proverbs in his prime, and Ecclesiastes at the end. They say, Solomon wrote Song of Songs in his dawn, Proverbs in his Zenith, and Ecclesiastes in his twilight.
So, of course, it is Ecclesiastes which captivates me. I’m morbid like that.
They say, Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes when he was far from God.
They say a lot of things.
It sorta looks to me as though Solomon was writing Ecclesiastes as he returned to God. Like a man writing a book about all the stupid things he had done while he walks the dusty road back home.
Imagine catching up with the prodigal son (Luke 15) years later when he’s a dusty old man reflecting on all the years gone by.
And now the prodigal son has become the father, and he’s sat us down and told us not to do all the poppycock rattling around in our noggins because he’s already tried them, and found them all to be lacking next to trusting the one true God.
Vanity is the preacher’s refrain. Vanity, he says. All.
Oh yes, if you caught up with the prodigal son in the twilight of everything he might tell you all the stuff he did. Some might call it a braggamony. He might simply wish to spare you the pain. He’d tell you how he wished his dear old Dad dead by asking for his inheritance yet while he lived. And how he went off to a foreign land. A gap year if you will. How he lived like an animal until he lived with them.
And he’d tell you how he came to his senses and went home, and how while he was still a long way off his father saw him and ran to him, for he had been waiting for this moment all this time. And how he had so much to say but his father would hear none of it so busy was he adorning his son who had been dead but who was now Resurrected.
Resurrected by the Father’s grace.
Well, the prodigal son could have simply read Solomon, but we dustlings have a thing about learning the hard way, don’t we?
Solomon was many things in his long life. But here he takes the mantle of a preacher. One who speaks publically to a congregations, hence the name of the book. We get words like Church and Ecclesiology (the things concerning the Church) and that sort of thing from letters in this combination.
At the end of Harry Potter, Harry’s professor and mentor, Dumbledore, bequeaths the spectacled boy wizard with a golden snitch, which in that world would sort of be like giving somebody a baseball. Now, this particular golden snitch was one that Harry had caught in a game, when he was young. Dumbelydore had written on the golden snitch, “I open at the close”.
And so it was with Solomon. Trust is a tricky critter. It comes and goes, sometimes that’s how it goes. Solomon starts his reign trusting God. He asked God for wisdom to just… be able to do his job. He was the King of Israel, and the King of Israel was a servant of God, or at least he was supposed to be.
I think it pleases God when people just want to do their Job well.
But then the money and the foreign wives came along, and Solomon lost his trust, and his innocence, somewhere along the wide road.
It happens everyday.
It happens to people who know better.
It happens to people who sit in pews and sing .
And it happened to Solomon.
But like the golden snitch read, “I open at the close”.
Things have a way of clearing up in the twilight.
Solomon returns home, and home is called faith.
So it is that after a gaggle of chapters explaining how wealthy, smart yet daft he was, Solomon returns to the truth of the Resurrection of the Dead. He says that none of it matters without God.
All Is Vanity
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
(Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 ESV)
Solomon is world-weary, and you may be too. It’s not a bad thing, so long you are anchored in Heaven with Jesus Christ. This world and the things, all the things of this world are passing away. This much is true. Your citizenship is in Heaven. Christ is the way everlasting.
Solomon says nothing is new. Nobody is really creative. He writes “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it”
Indeed, a man cannot endure it.
While I watched, helpless as a child, as my Resplendent Bride slowly died in a hospital room, I kept whispering something to God. I kept saying over and over, “This is more than I can bear.”
I cannot bear this.
It was more than a man can endure.
And every funeral I must preside over is more than I can endure.
All the death makes me weary. And it is more than I can endure. It shall not change, until it does.
How Long O Lord?
We cannot endure life under the sun alone. We need God’s help to endure. He is everything. He is all there is.
The moment you die all the vanity vanishes, it is vanquished and there will be Him alone.
Heaven and Earth flee from Him.
The moment you die all the world-weariness is washed away and there is only Him, and Him alone.
Life under the sun is vanity without God creating, redeeming, and sustaining.
Solomon says there is no remembrance of former things.
Did you know they think they found Aristotle’s grave? They just found it. I figured they knew where the founder of western civilization was buried, but no, people sorta forgot. Oh, geeks still quote him to impress girls, regardless of the effectiveness of that tactic, but the world passed his grave by.
The Broadway musical “Hamilton” ends with a poignant song titled “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story”. The song asks who tells your story after you die. In the musical the answer is Eliza, his wife. She forgives him for all the rotten stuff he did to her, and puts herself back into the narrative by seeking to solidify Hamilton’s legacy. But in real life, Alexander Hamilton was so forgotten that he was nearly replaced on the ten dollar bill, and would have been had it not been for a musical. Not many people were sitting around reading the Federalist Papers. They’re all reading “Harry Potter”. So it goes.
In the musical the character of Aaron Burr sings his own song, which has a line in it which lines up with Solomon’s wisdom, “Death does not discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes, and it takes, and it takes.”
Ecclesiastes is a book about dying. Literally. Figuratively.
Ecclesiastes is a book about rising up, picking up your cross and following the Crucified Carpenter King all the way Home.
Ecclesiastes is about Death and Resurrection, the most beautiful of themes. The Theme. The Final Motif.
In the end there is only you and Jesus Christ. How everything else in the world fits into that Christ makes all the difference between vanity and eternity.